planemaker
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PBS NOVA: Rise Of The Drones

Tue Jan 29, 2013 12:59 am

PBS aired on NOVA: Rise of the Drones...

Quote:
Program Description

Drones. These unmanned flying robots–some as large as jumbo jets, others as small as birds–do things straight out of science fiction. Much of what it takes to get these robotic airplanes to fly, sense, and kill has remained secret. But now, with rare access to drone engineers and those who fly them for the U.S. military, NOVA reveals the amazing technologies that make drones so powerful as we see how a remotely-piloted drone strike looks and feels from inside the command center. From cameras that can capture every detail of an entire city at a glance to swarming robots that can make decisions on their own to giant air frames that can stay aloft for days on end, drones are changing our relationship to war, surveillance, and each other. And it's just the beginning. Discover the cutting edge technologies that are propelling us toward a new chapter in aviation history as NOVA gets ready for "Rise of the Drones."

The progam can be watched here.

In a promo for NOVA, Jon Stewart interviewed one of the participants of "Rise of the Drones", Missy Cunningham (Aeronautics/Astronautics Prof @ MIT and one of the first female Navy F-18 pilots). The extended interview can be seen here .

The interview was mainly focused on military use of UAVs but among some of the things discussed was that she believes that FedEx and UPS would be using UAV's in 5 - 10 years. She also talked about a project she is working on for the Navy where a UAV rescue helicopter could be called in by cell phone (she mentions the UAV K-Max's that have dropped off over a million pounds of cargo in Afghanistan).
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tommytoyz
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RE: PBS NOVA: Rise Of The Drones

Wed Jan 30, 2013 11:09 pm

I haven't watched the program - but I think drones are the future, not crazy expensive manned stealth aircraft affordable only in very limited numbers. F-22 case in point.

But that's just me.

Keep you're eyes on the US Navy's X-47B drone and the aircraft carrier landing scheduled from this summer.
 
titanmiller
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RE: PBS NOVA: Rise Of The Drones

Fri Feb 01, 2013 5:06 am

This was the best part of the show:

http://youtu.be/QGxNyaXfJsA

A 1.8 gigapixel camera that can survey large areas in realtime.
 
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RE: PBS NOVA: Rise Of The Drones

Fri Feb 01, 2013 6:54 pm

Enjoyed the show.

One important point the show made was that the USAF is now training more people for UAV flight crew duties than non-UAV flight crews.

There's now ~200 Preditor class UAVs floating around, not to mention Global Hawk, and a lot of the smaller programs all converging on the same technology.

I'm a fan of history so I found the interviews with Abraham Karem as well as the shots of his early prototypes to be fascinating.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History...nmanned_aerial_vehicles#Modern_era is an interesting read as well.

It was interesting to see the implications of use of UAVs in civilian life. I think the implications of every cop as well as criminal as well as lots in between having access to a UAV can be frightening. I'm not so worried about the scenarios painted about machines taking over the world (which in the end even they admitted were silly for the near/mid term future) but just the plain old day to day issues like a jilted lover using them to stalk someone, etc.

One thing I'm surprised they didn't bring up is that there already have been arrests of terrorists trying to build out their own UAVs here in the US. It doesn't take a genius to see that it doesn't take that much skill to build a crude UAV for a one-way flight.
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JoeCanuck
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RE: PBS NOVA: Rise Of The Drones

Fri Feb 01, 2013 7:42 pm

Quoting Revelation (Reply 3):

One thing I'm surprised they didn't bring up is that there already have been arrests of terrorists trying to build out their own UAVs here in the US. It doesn't take a genius to see that it doesn't take that much skill to build a crude UAV for a one-way flight.

Drones are going to be the great equalizer. As was shown in the clip with the Argus camera, the technology is based on commercial products. Sure, the basement scientist might have trouble making a 1.8gigapixel camera...but what about a 500 megapixel camera...which can do most of what the bleeding edge camera can.

A decade ago, we were flying R/C aircraft with real time video links to ground, for a couple of hundred bucks. The models themselves are stupid easy to build, (ready to fly models with an 8 foot span are only a couple of grand at any hobby shop)...and since they're either made out of plastic or balsa, they're very nearly invisible to radar.

If you don't need to fly at 17,500, and/or you don't need to know what a person is wearing, there is plenty of video and still equipment at Best Buy or Costco that would do a very good job. A quick google shows a 3Tb hard drive for sale for under $70...so anybody can store as much imagery as they want for as long as they want.



As for weapons, R/C aircraft have been equipped to drop objects from hard points for decades. You don't always need a hellfire to do the job...sometimes just a handgrenade will do...though model rockets can carry a decent payload and wing hardpoints aren't exactly rocket surgery.

Brushless motors, li-ion batteries and solar cells are old news in the R/C community...and a geared prop on a properly mufflered gas motor wouldn't be detected at 1000'. Some small lighter than air drones could loiter forever over a likely target without ever being detected.

Drones and other covert weapons like computer malware, sound like a cheap, clean, easy and neat way to attack an enemy....but what happens when the enemy figures out how to do it?

...which they already have.
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RE: PBS NOVA: Rise Of The Drones

Fri Feb 01, 2013 8:29 pm

Quoting JoeCanuck (Reply 4):
...which they already have.

Indeed, which is why it's interesting to me that NOVA didn't discuss this reality as opposed to spending so much time on all that artificial intelligence stuff which is not an issue in the near/mid term future.
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RE: PBS NOVA: Rise Of The Drones

Fri Feb 01, 2013 9:52 pm

Quoting Revelation (Reply 3):
One important point the show made was that the USAF is now training more people for UAV flight crew duties than non-UAV flight crews.

That was a revelation, no pun intended. The USAF pulling non-pilot officers into a drone flying program was going to happen at some point. Since they've already figured out how to train them using X-Box controllers. You could probably train a 16 year old to fly a drone as long as they have an interest in gaming.

The tunnel effect of using the drone's camera was enlightening though. I'd never really thought about it, although couldn't they slave 2 cameras (one on top and one on bottom) on the drone to work like the Apache HUD? Where it just follows the operator's head movements. That way they could get close to a 360 degree view of the environment they're flying in.

Quoting JoeCanuck (Reply 4):
A decade ago, we were flying R/C aircraft with real time video links to ground, for a couple of hundred bucks.

It's probably still around that cost. Didn't the contractor say he used cell phone camera chips to develop the 1 Gigapixel + camera? My smartphone has an 8 MP camera on it. Seems like you could put that on an off the shelf R/C aircraft right now.
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RE: PBS NOVA: Rise Of The Drones

Sat Feb 02, 2013 9:39 am

The big powers are spending billions on drone technology while small powers are spending tens of dollars to get 90% of the capabilities. The US brags about the 100% insurgent kill ratio with drones on foreign soil. I can go to any radio shack and get a wee drone, load it up with some nasty stuff and fly it where it can do some bad things to a lot of people.

Nobody is immune from retaliation...Osama's fate should be proof enough of that...and turn about may not always be fair play...but who said life is fair?

I find it funny when someone says, 'we'll bomb them back to the stone age', especially considering how poorly the west has done against stone age weapons over the past half a century.
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RE: PBS NOVA: Rise Of The Drones

Sat Feb 02, 2013 2:12 pm

Quoting JoeCanuck (Reply 7):
The big powers are spending billions on drone technology while small powers are spending tens of dollars to get 90% of the capabilities. The US brags about the 100% insurgent kill ratio with drones on foreign soil. I can go to any radio shack and get a wee drone, load it up with some nasty stuff and fly it where it can do some bad things to a lot of people.

I always wonder why the bad guys wouldn't just go steal or rent a C150 or C172 and outfit it with right electro-mechanicals for it to make a one-way flight to somewhere of interest, carrying whatever payload they insert. The US has had the tech for this going back decades now for use in target drones. All the bad guys would need to do is develop a kit that they could deploy reasonably quickly. For instance, a two person team could steal or rent the A/C. Person 1 could be doing the pre-flight and taxiing to the usual engine warmup/crosscheck area. In the mean time, person 2 could be assembling the mechanicals, pre-drilling the holes for the mounts, etc. Then they jump out, do whatever last minute hookup is needed, firewall the throttles and run to the get-away car. The advantage is that all the infra needed for much of the drone of a useful size is available and pre-positioned.
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planemaker
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RE: PBS NOVA: Rise Of The Drones

Sat Feb 02, 2013 7:09 pm

Quoting JoeCanuck (Reply 4):
The models themselves are stupid easy to build, (ready to fly models with an 8 foot span are only a couple of grand at any hobby shop)...and since they're either made out of plastic or balsa, they're very nearly invisible to radar.

With 3-D printing becoming increasingly more widespread, it will be even easier. About 1.5 years ago University of Southhampton 'printed' a very nice "snap-together UAV" which they are claiming as the world's first printed aircraft.

Quoting Revelation (Reply 5):
which is why it's interesting to me that NOVA didn't discuss this reality as opposed to spending so much time on all that artificial intelligence stuff which is not an issue in the near/mid term future.

It is an issue in the mid term future as IT advances geometrically.

Quoting canoecarrier (Reply 6):
That was a revelation, no pun intended. The USAF pulling non-pilot officers into a drone flying program was going to happen at some point.

There are now several civilian drone university programs, including at Embry Riddle.

Quoting canoecarrier (Reply 6):

The tunnel effect of using the drone's camera was enlightening though. I'd never really thought about it, although couldn't they slave 2 cameras (one on top and one on bottom) on the drone to work like the Apache HUD? Where it just follows the operator's head movements. That way they could get close to a 360 degree view of the environment they're flying in.

With the upcoming low power multi-core processors that are coming out (Intel, for example, has released a 48-core for testing) there will be the ability to have multiple, very light & low power consumption cameras that can have their images "stitched" together to provide 360 degree views.

[Edited 2013-02-02 11:48:20]
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RE: PBS NOVA: Rise Of The Drones

Sat Feb 02, 2013 10:13 pm

Quoting planemaker (Reply 9):
It is an issue in the mid term future as IT advances geometrically.

Right, but artificial intelligence hasn't, and it's been a topic of research pretty much since electronic computers have existed. I just find it interesting how the show went into sci-fi mode when there's so much more to be said about what we know we can do today.
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RE: PBS NOVA: Rise Of The Drones

Sun Feb 03, 2013 4:45 am

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4OKluZFZoHs

the program has been posted on youtube in 720p if anyonw wants to download it...
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RE: PBS NOVA: Rise Of The Drones

Sun Feb 03, 2013 6:04 pm

Quoting Revelation (Reply 10):
Right, but artificial intelligence hasn't, and it's been a topic of research pretty much since electronic computers have existed

Because it is dependant on processing power and memory... which is advancing geometrically. That is why AGI (artificial general intelligence) is predicted to be achieved as soon as 2030 but no later than 2050. Aviation will not need AGI and thus the impact of aviation "narrow" AI will impact significantly in the mid term future.
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